Thursday, April 6, 2017

Brooklyn Dance Festival's Santana: lessons from her journey

Tamia B. Santana (left) with Eva Yaa Asantewaa
at Movers and Shakers: Dance Activists in NYC,
a panel discussion co-sponsored by
Brooklyn Dance Festival and Brooklyn Historical Society,
November 19, 2015
(photo courtesy of Brooklyn Dance Festival)

Guest contributor Tamia B. Santana (Executive Director of the Brooklyn Dance Festival) offers a few life lessons for artists.


Welcome to the leading edge!

by Tamia B. Santana

Artists, welcome! Join us on the leading edge. The arts are here to support you.

Here are a few truths I have discovered on my journey.

1.       Evolution is happening.

I like what I like. Once I am touched by a choreographer or company, like an emperor penguin, I am imprinted and locked on for life.  I support those artists through their entire journey. I may not have loved the last concert they presented, but I will always love their voice and their courage to express themselves.

Savion Glover’s Om at the Joyce was out there. One or two patrons walked out, and it was very a small crowd. I loved it. He was risking it all and revealing who he was in that moment. It taught me about allowing your whole self to be expressed as you continue to evolve.

Like the Universe, we are all evolving. Is he expected to dance Stepz or Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk year after year? It’s not natural.

If we as your fans are stuck in where we were when we discovered you, that is our problem. We all need to accept change, and I love when artists have the courage to remind us of that. So to artists, keep doing you and presenting you. It is liberating us whether or not we acknowledge it to you or to ourselves.

2.       Creation is happening.

As a producer, I wanted to create opportunities for the dance I wanted to see.  It was easy and fun for me, and I had a chance to learn a lot along the way. I now feel grateful to share what I love with as many people as possible.

Please do not wait to see what you love.  Help create a space for it. It can start small but will always have momentum.

I think the oldest profession is performing artist. It cannot be stopped. If we live, we will want to create, and these creations are meant to be seen and connected with each other. The Universe will support you.

3.       Just do it!

When you are on the leading edge, creating new opportunities and experiences that have never been done before, it won’t be perfect.  When artists make “mistakes” on stage or in rehearsal, we as a community are forgiving and exalt those moments as being real and authentic.

I am learning to do the same with producing. With so many working parts, a name may not make it into the program, a music or lighting cue may be missed, a date reversed, and so on. It is all part of the process.

I used to have parents at my dance school who helped me learn that beautiful lesson. They were extremely critical of almost all information and nearly every detail relating to their children. Of course, I drew people around me with that mind set because of my own self critical thinking. They helped me learn that our studio could be locked in a four-wall box, or we could experience something new.

My students now have access to unlimited resources and opportunities in dance in New York. With each new experience, this helped me learn there are new challenges and variables that accompany leading them to the edge.

So, whether it is BAM, Lincoln Center or the local street fair, the point is that we are here. I have learned to take notes, reflect on what can be improved and then let the rest go.

There is also an art in making things happen despite something being uncertain. I saw The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center last season and the Sugar Plum Fairy fell flat on the stage and yet finished beautifully. It was glorious. There was one way to make certain her fall would never happen. She could have never taken the stage. She made the right choice for all of us, and I am better for having seen that performance. I now have the same compassion and reverence for the production.

Just do it!

Tamia B. Santana is the Executive Director of Brooklyn Dance Festival and Jeté Dance Center in Brooklyn, NY. She was born, raised and is currently raising her family in Brooklyn. She is an advocate for the arts. Santana serves on the Board of Directors for One Brooklyn through Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the co-founder of the "ONE LOVE NY" organization, bringing arts and resources to children in New York's Juvenile Hall. She is a proud member of the Bessie Awards’s Steering Committee and a Resident Director of the Brooklyn Museum's Brooklyn Dance Festival Concert series for Target First Saturday. She has also helped curate and direct dance events at BAM, , Summer Stage, Brooklyn Borough Hall and more.

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